About the PMA

The Portland Museum of Art strives to enrich the lives of people through acquisition, preservation, and interpretation of the visual arts and the Museum's architecturally significant buildings.

The Portland Museum of Art is a place where centuries of American and European art merge with cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions and innovative educational programs. Housed in a modern building on the coast of Maine and in the cultural heart of Portland, the PMA boasts a permanent collection that includes masters of Realism, Impressionism, and Surrealism such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and many more. The PMA’s commitment to Maine’s vibrant creative community extends to the renovated Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck, the PMA store, the PMA Café, and a wide range of special events.

Our Vision

The Portland Museum of Art will create outstanding exhibitions and educational programs to inspire our audiences. We embrace our rich past, dynamic present, and vibrant future to be a vital arts center for the city, region, and nation. Leveraging the strength of our collection, scholarship, and geographic location, we will excel in these distinct areas:

    The ongoing exploration of the creative culture of the state of Maine within the
        context of American art and culture.
    The interpretation of European modernism through our collection and programs.
    The presentation of progressive exhibitions beyond our collection that address local and global issues.
    The integration of our unique architectural campus into the fabric of Portland and the state of Maine. 

The Portland Museum of Art strives to engage our audiences in a dialogue about the relevance of art and culture to our lives. Aspiring to facilitate this conversation through exhibitions, programs, and partnerships, we dedicate ourselves to serving and supporting our local and national community. In order to provide a learning environment for our audiences, we commit ourselves to good governance, professional development, and fiscal responsibility.

A Message From Our Director

It’s been an exceptional summer here in Portland, Maine. The city has embraced its national esteem and affirmed itself as a place where you can start a business, found an organization, or lay the roots for a lifetime in Maine. It’s an exciting time for the region, and the PMA is taking the lead in shaping our community for generations to come.

We’ve met the high expectations of Portland head on, bringing nationally renowned exhibitions to the museum with greater frequency and larger impact. Richard Estes’ Realism was a blockbuster, and the buzz surrounding the art and our role in bringing this retrospective to Maine was palpable.

The Wall Street Journal hailed Richard Estes’ Realism as, “confirm[ing] his place as one of our most accomplished painters.” We wholeheartedly agree, and feel this exhibition helped firmly establish the PMA as the best regional museum in the country.

The PMA is excited to build on this momentum this fall. The greatest private collection of British artwork in America will open at the PMA on October 2. Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection is an uncanny exhibition that presents impeccable art spanning six centuries—there is truly something for everyone. It’s the kind of exhibition that will unite the diverse and sophisticated group of art enthusiasts that is the PMA membership, and we’re thrilled to bring it to the PMA.

In February 2016, the PMA will usher in a new era for the museum, the city, and you—our members. As we prepare to unveil your museum, reimagined, you’ll see more from the PMA than ever: more partnerships with local businesses and organizations, more innovative programming and events, more nationally lauded exhibitions, and more focus on our incredible permanent collection.

This fall, it’s all happening at the PMA, and we look forward to sharing it with you.

 Mark H. C. Bessire, Director

Become a Member

Members enable the PMA to provide spectacular programming, unique exhibitions, and remarkable events. They believe in the transformative power of the arts. They value community. If this sounds like you, we invite you to explore the many levels of membership available at the PMA and become a part of something special.

Museum History & Architecture

Photo by Craig Becker

Originally founded as the Portland Society of Art, the Museum used a variety of exhibition spaces until 1908. That year Mrs. Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat bequeathed her three-story mansion, now known as the McLellan House, and sufficient funds to create a gallery in memory of her late husband, Lorenzo de Medici Sweat. Noted New England architect John Calvin Stevens designed the L. D. M. Sweat Memorial Galleries, which opened to the public in 1911.

Contact Us

Portland Museum of Art
Seven Congress Square
Portland, Maine 04101

(207) 775-6148

(207) 773-7324 Fax


Contact list by department

Key Facts & Stats

Founded in 1882

Located in the downtown arts district in Portland, Maine

Maine's largest and oldest public art institution, founded in 1882

With more than 8,000 members, the PMA boasts a strong base of loyal support both locally and regionally

Recognized as "one of the best medium-size museums in New England," by Boston Globe

Largest collection of European art north of Boston

Comprehensive collection of Winslow Homer's graphics

150,000 visitors per year

Nearly 12,000 schoolchildren per year

More than 17,000 objects of fine and decorative arts in the collection, dating from the 18th-century to the present

Approximately 10 changing exhibitions per year

What's Going on at the PMA?

August 13, 2014
Copywriter and Editor
The Maine paintings of Richard Estes seem to exist outside of time. The landscapes he chose to paint remain more or less the same to this day; they could recall in viewers a vacation from 40 years ago or a day hike from last week. Even his Maine pictures with human subjects have a timeless feel.

In the News

The Wall Street Journal
August 24, 2014 |

We don't know for certain the identity of the woman who has come to be known as Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa." Or whether Édouard Manet bought a drink from the girl standing behind the counter in "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère."

But we do know how "Water Taxi, Mount Desert" (1999), by Richard Estes came to be—a painting that I suspect will stand the test of time.

"Who paid for that?" Mr. Estes asked Nancy Monfredo of the boat ride depicted in the work, which shows Ms. Monfredo and her daughter, Nina, seated on a wicker chair gazing out at the ocean as they headed back to Northeast Harbor, Maine.

"You and I did," Ms. Monfredo recalled, as she sat in the living room of Mr. Estes's home in Maine last week. "Twenty dollars apiece." She added, laughing: "You said, 'I'll take some pictures and I can deduct this.' "

"I had about three frames left on the film," remembered Mr. Estes, perhaps America's greatest Photorealist painter. "I wanted to use it up so I could have it processed."

Mr. Estes at his home in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Ralph Gardner/The Wall Street Journal

I visited Maine with several goals in mind: to swim and hike in Acadia National Park, to consume several lobster rolls and to see the retrospective of Mr. Estes work, "Richard Estes' Realism" at the Portland Museum of Art. The show runs through Sept. 7, then travels to the nation's capital, where it opens Oct. 10 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

I'd seen reproductions of "Water Taxi, Mount Desert" but never the painting itself, which normally resides at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo.

The original didn't disappoint. Like Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" or other great portraits, its timelessness is set off by a sense of immediacy.

I don't think it makes any difference to my appreciation of the painting that Ms. Monfredo was my wife's college roommate or that we were on our way to see her and her husband, Paul, in Northeast Harbor. Nina, now 25, lives and works in Manhattan. None of the other museumgoers knew our friend. But as with a Vermeer, the image attracted a crowd.

I recall the painting that first drew me to Richard Estes's work, if not the year or even the decade. Titled "Drugs" and painted in 1970, it depicts the streamlined facade of Weiner Drugs, the word "DRUGS" in large neon letters above it. The pharmacy, long gone, stood on the southeast corner of 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue. That's where I'd spend my 25-cent allowance as a child. I had a particular weakness for Nestlé Crunch bars.

Another of his works is 'Diner.' Richard Estes/Marlborough Gallery, New York

"My parents came to visit me once," Mr. Estes remembered of the '60s and the neighborhood, less glamorous in those days. "I was living on 75th Street between Central Park West and Columbus. We were going to go out and eat. We couldn't find a restaurant on Columbus Avenue. We had to go to Broadway."

While the portrait of the Monfredo women was the main incentive to visit Portland—the food scene coming in a close second, especially for my daughters—the exhibition also made a case for Richard Estes as the most significant landscape painter of New York City.

These days, Mr. Estes divides his time between Maine and his apartment in the Eldorado on Central Park West. He paints for several hours in the afternoon.

Whether diners seated around a table at the Automat (1966-1968), Sunday afternoon sunbathers in Central Park (1989) or the Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue and 77th Street under scaffolding—the work that sat on his easel the morning I visited—Mr. Estes imbues his scenes, no matter how seemingly commonplace, with a delicacy and poignancy that rivals those of his influences, ranging from Canaletto and Frederic Church to Edward Hopper.

"Half of New York is under scaffolding," he explained.

'Brooklyn Bridge' Richard Estes/Marlborough Gallery, New York

While ours was more a social visit than a formal interview, Mr. Estes's fundamental modesty showed through—as it does in his art, where his signature is often hidden in plain sight.

He claims that several of his paintings decorate his walls, only because he can't sell them—"Art collectors are funny," he said. "They don't necessarily buy what they want; they buy what they think they should buy"—and that he finds painting New York City and the frozen landscape of Antarctica, the subject of a 2007 painting in the exhibition, equally challenging: "I usually have just as much trouble with one as the other."

But therein also lays the magic of his work. It manages to reduce to a bare minimum the obstructions that stand between the viewer and the truth of the subject matter.

Seeing a painting of New York City, circa 1970, makes me feel like I'm back in the '70s with all its trappings—the storefronts, subway ads and empty building lots, long since filled in.

"You inject your own personality," Mr. Estes said. "But if you think about it too much, it becomes phony."